From time to time when I have needed a place to park myself prior to a later engagement, I have dropped in at the North Square for a drink. It is sort of perfect as a “lounge,” as a opposed to a bar or club – dimly lit, bartenders rather than mixologists, the sort of food that goes with good gin and whisky, seating that invites repose. They also have a jazz brunch, which on Sunday I attended for the first time because Camila Meza was the featured artist.
It was a pleasant scene. The external sunlight was filtered but not dim, the food good, the Bloody Mary totally and satisfyingly traditional. Seeing Meza play in this environment also clarified for me one of the many impressive talents of this singer and guitarist, who these days is more likely to sing a North American or Brazilian jazz standard than something from her native Chile. There is an appealing quality in her work that may reflect a cultural sensibility: I once heard a musician I know refer to it as a “Chilean vibe”. The sorts of words that come to mind are “ethereal”, “watery”, “wispy”. “Ambient” works for me, but not with any pejorative implication that it is mere background music. I would say, rather, that it is a music that recognizes and interpenetrates with whatever environment she is in.
I have mostly seen Meza in settings where the music is the main focus, in which the point is to give full and primary attention to the performer. Jazz brunches in restaurants are a different sort of atmosphere, and I was struck by how well her style adjusted to it, neither fading into the background nor insisting upon the singular attention of the diners. It also occurred to me that her interpenetrative skills go a long way toward explaining why her voice and the guitar work so well together. They interweave rather than accompany each other, an effect that carried over to her fellow musicians, Marco Panscia on bass and Yotan Silberstein on a second guitar, all of which added up to an exceptionally pleasant and well integrated experience.
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